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The Overflow of the Christian life September 30, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Stewardship.
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The Abundance of Giving as Part of the Christian Life

2 Corinthians 8:7-8

No part of the Christian life is isolated from another (verse 7). It is the overflowing presence of all the things mentioned in this verse that indicate an abundant Christian life. For example, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul wrote, “…though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Paul certainly did not discount faith but he recognized that a miracle working faith without the active love of God is worthless.

In the same way verse 8 in this chapter indicates the connection between love and diligence and giving. You see, you cannot have one without also having the others. Now this list is not an exhaustive list but things that Paul specifically had in mind as he was writing to the Corinthian church.

FOUNDATIONAL FAITH

Paul begins with faith. Faith in Christ and His work on the cross is where our part in the Christian life begins. We are aware that before the foundation of the world, God the Father planned in Jesus Christ to provide salvation for us by grace alone because we cannot earn salvation. Then God sends the Holy Spirit to draw us to Jesus Christ. We cannot save ourselves, we do not save ourselves, but God in His grace through His Holy Spirit awakens our heart to respond to the gospel of Christ in faith. There are many, many examples we could give from the word of God but I would like for us look at one in 2 Corinthians 10:14-16:

14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ;

15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,

16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.

Paul had a vision for these Corinthians. When he and Silas and Timothy came to them to preach the gospel to them, he labored among them for a year and a half. He says, “We came with the gospel of Christ in hopes that you would believe, that you would put your faith in Christ but that our goal was much more than converts but that they would increase in their faith in such a way that the church at Corinth would become their partners in the preaching of the gospel.

FAITH OVERFLOWING 

Most of us have too low of a vision. We want to see people turn to Christ and avoid hell. We want to see people live in a way that is moral and not harmful to themselves or to others. That is how far our vision reaches. We have such a pitiful vision. Paul said, I came to preach the gospel to you so that your faith would drive you to become partners with me in reaching the gospel to the world. Do we care if we young people become passionate for the gospel of Christ? How much do we want their faith to grow? Do we pray for our young people, our new believers, our new attendees, do we care if they are growing in their faith? What is more important to us, that people in our church, young or old, have good lives, good jobs, nice homes, good health or that they have a life of vibrant faith driving them to reach others with the gospel of Christ?

FAITH EXHIBITED IN OUR SPEECH AND KNOWLEDGE 

After faith, Paul mentions two things that had from the very beginning been characteristic of the Corinthian church – speech and knowledge. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:4-7a:

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,

5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,

6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,

7a so that you come short in no gift,

“[The Corinthians were] enriched and lacked nothing (verses 5 and 7a)… by Jesus Christ in all utterance and knowledge (we will come back to this in chapter 8:1). They were capable of expressing the truth and they were capable of understanding the truth. These people had put their faith in Christ and it showed in their speech and in their knowledge. They knew their doctrine. In fact, they debated the finest points of doctrine…These people knew the truth of Christ. They were certain of it and Paul was certain of it” (from the sermon, “Things We Can Agree On”).

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul points out that knowledge, even knowledge that comes from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:5) puffs up but love edifies.  It is important that we be articulate about our faith and proficient in our knowledge of Christ, not that we can flaunt it but because these are gifts that Christ makes available to us as a church and as individuals within the church. These tools like faith do not stand alone.

TAKING OUR FAITH SERIOUSLY 

Paul in this list now moves from the basic in faith and from the obvious in speech and knowledge and moves to an area which he greatly emphasizes in 2 Corinthians 7 and 8 – diligence. In 7:5-11 we see Paul commending them for their diligence in dealing with sin within their church:

5 ¶ For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.

6 Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

7 and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.

8 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.

9 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.

10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Paul recognized that with all the problems that this church had, and they had a lot of them, when they understood that there was a situation to deal with, they dealt with it with diligence, with earnest care, with passion. Obviously, there is a time for dispassionate level-headedness and patience but the Christian life is not only a life of faith, a life of expressing God’s truth to the world, a life of learning Christ in a fuller way, it is also a life of passion. Paul encourages their passion by holding up the passion of the Macedonian churches in their giving. This is not a psychological appeal. This is an appeal to their spiritual being. “Look at the passion (diligence) in which they serve Christ (verse 8)! Look at the passion (earnest care) with which Christ died for you (verse 9)! Live with that same passion, that same diligence, that same earnest care (verses 10-11)! I know you can, you have proven it already. Do it again! Do it again!”

ALL THESE THINGS ARE BOUND TOGETHER BY LOVE.

The oil that makes faith and speech and knowledge and diligence work together is love. Col 3:14 says, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

2Co 8:8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love [“for us” Paul said to verse 7] by the diligence of others.

2Co 8:24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.

Again we see that love for God and love for fellow believers is inseparable. Jesus Himself taught this when He told His disciples in John 13:34-35:

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is the substance of the abundance of our Christian life. It is not shown not by keeping the rules but by being real in our faith, in this case, as evidenced by our diligence in our giving through love (verse 8). It is impossible to keep rules in abundance. You either obey or you do not obey. It is possible though to abound in the Christian life. This is what the abundant Christian life looks like.

GOD WANTS US TO USE OUR SPIRITUAL AS WELL AS OUR FINANCIAL OVERFLOW FOR OTHERS.

God will use the abundance of our Christian life to fill the lack of another (verses 10-14). Not everyone has abundance in all things. Not everyone is abundant in financial means. Not everyone is abundant in expressing their faith and in their knowledge of God’s Word. Not everyone is abundant in faith, some are even weak in faith. Not everyone has the passion and diligence and earnest care in eternal things that they should. But we can share in the areas where we abound, where we overflow with others. The danger, as for the Corinthians is in not doing it.

Where do you overflow? To whom are you going to give?

Where are you lacking? Commit yourself to increase, to grow, to be enriched by Christ in that area.

Sermons from 2 Corinthians 8:7-8 September 27, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Religion, Second Corinthians, Stewardship.
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From MacArthur – This sermon is actually the last of an eight part series on money and giving with the last four focusing on the passages we have been looking at the past four weeks. You can find links to the whole series here at Monergism.

It is hard to find sermons that divide the passage like I have but this one covers verse eight nicely and gives some interesting insights to the book of Hebrews as well.

Giving yourself abundantly (discipleship) September 23, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF DISCIPLESHIP IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:5-6

So far we have seen the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. We have also looked at the attitude of willingness that joy produces in our giving. Today we want to consider what it is that we actually should give. We must give ourselves totally to the Lord.

BACKGROUND 

Paul realistically had expected a little help from the Macedonians in the benevolence offering that he was gathering for the Jerusalem church (verse 5a). Paul, of course, knew the Macedonians well. He had led many of them to the Lord. He knew the readiness with which many of them had received the gospel (for example, the church at Berea in Acts 17).

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-8 we find an earlier description of some of these people. Paul was probably less than a month in Thessalonica before he was forced out of town. He had fond memories of these people. From the very beginning they received the gospel with joy even in the midst of great affliction. Paul says that in this they were imitators of him and Silas and Timothy as well as of Christ. In fact Paul had set himself up as an example before the church in Thessalonica and encouraged them to follow him, to imitate him and they had done so.

Because Paul had lived before them with joy in affliction he thought he knew what to expect of these believers. He thought that they would react in the area of giving in the way he reacted, laboring to meet this need in some way.

BUT PAUL’S EXPECTATIONS WERE EXCEEDED.

The Macedonians proved their discipleship by their obedience and surrender to God’s will. They gave themselves to God and to others (verse 5b). Instead of giving out of their ability, they out of their poverty gave themselves first to God and then to others and finally, gave financially.

FOLLOWING THEIR EXAMPLE

First, you give yourself up to God. When you trust Christ as Savior you are no longer your own man. You belong to God. You are His.

Look back in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. In those verses Paul is explaining why it is possible to give ourselves to the Lord. “The love of Christ compels us… [to] …live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again.” In fact, Romans 14:7-9 points out that one of the reasons that Christ died is so that we might give ourselves totally to Him.

That is what discipleship is, totally giving yourself to another so that you might learn from Him how to live. Christ died so that you would give yourself to Him. He wants you to leave all and learn from Him.

YOU CANNOT STOP WITH GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD. 

Secondly, you give yourself up to the people of God. I belong to God and then I belong to you. Not because you pay me as your pastor but because Christ paid for me and made me a part of His body of which you also are a member. I know that some were uncomfortable last week with the statement I made about church membership. I have no desire to make you uncomfortable but you need to understand that you are not your own. You belong to the body of Christ.

Now you might say, “But Robert, the context is not the submission and commitment of individuals to the local church but rather the submission and commitment of three local churches to an apostle and his team of missionaries.” If you should say that, you would be absolutely correct. You see the real issue is submission and commitment to each other. It plays out in all kinds of ways. Between individuals. Between churches or groups of churches. Between congregations and leadership. Between churches and their supported missionaries. None of those relationships can replace the others. If I have a bad relationship with an individual in this church, I cannot make up for it by being a good pastor. If we have bad blood between us and another church, we cannot make up for it by being faithful to support our missionaries in Nigeria or Argentina. In the same way, my relationship to the body of Christ at large cannot replace my relationship to this local church. In every one of this relationships submission and commitment to Christ and to my fellow believers is demanded from me.

THE MONEY PART

Finally, after giving yourself to God and giving yourself to fellow believers, then comes the practical parts of putting money in the offering plate, teaching Sunday School, etc.

John Piper put it this way, “It is possible to give gifts to people and to God, and yet keep yourself at a distance. Money, [and if I may interject, preaching, going to the mission field, doing evangelism, teaching Sunday School, church attendance, church membership, Awana service, cleaning the church, keeping the nursery, all these things] which ought to be an expression of personal commitment, can actually be a substitute for personal commitment. Paul does not want that kind of money [or that kind of service]. Of first importance is to give ourselves to God and to God’s people. Then our gifts will be pleasing to the Lord.”

(From John Piper’s Sermon – Christmas Joy and the Kirchensteuer)

PAUL’S NEW EXPECTATIONS OF THE CORINTHIANS 

Paul’s expectations have now changed (verse 6). True Christian performance is now expected (verses 8-11). He is not expecting what he had expected from the Macedonian churches. He is expecting the Corinthians to give of themselves. He knows that if they give of themselves, they will give generously to the benevolence offering for the Jerusalem church.

He expresses this first of all by saying in verse 8 “I want you to prove that you have given yourself to God. I want you to prove that you are a disciple, a learner of Jesus. I want you to prove that you are an imitator of Christ. Prove that you are living for Him. Prove that He is the Lord of your life.”

He does not ask them to give themselves to Christ, to live for Christ. As he mentions in chapter 5, that is a given. It should be a reasonable assumption that when someone says, “I am a Christian,” they have given themselves to Christ. In a way it is like dropping your maiden name. We knew a fellow once who had what we would call a dysfunctional family. This fellow met a young lady, fell in love with her, proposed and made plans to marry. He made an unusual request though. He said to her, “I love your family. Your father is more like a father to me than my father is. Your mother is more like a mother to me than my own mother. I want to take your family name to be my family name.” He asked his bride-to-be if he could take on her name. In other words, he dropped his “maiden” name and took on her name as the family name.

When we trust Christ, we take the name of Christ, it is reasonable for people to expect us to be totally loyal to him and to expect us to prove the legitimacy and sincerity of our love to Christ through our actions.

ALL BECAUSE OF JESUS 

In verse 9 he appeals again to what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross. Everything that Christ did, He did for our sakes, to make us rich in joy and grace and love, to redeem us from our sin, and according to 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, to cause us to overflow in thanksgiving even in times of great trial. Look at these verses, especially noting verse 15. Paul is saying that the troubles we go through will be eternally worth while because of what Christ through grace has done for our sakes. We will be presented along with those to whom we minister to God’s glory for all eternity.

About a year ago I preached from this passage a sermon on avoiding burnout. If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to deny yourself, follow Christ, and serve others. According to verse 16, giving yourself to Christ will keep you eternally motivated.

If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to realize it is about Jesus revealed in you and not about your comfort. According to verse 17, giving yourself to Christ will reorder your priorities.

If you are going to avoid burnout, you need to realize that the eternal reward will be worth it. According to verse 18, giving yourself to Christ is evidence of an eternal perspective and not a temporary perspective.

BACK AGAIN IN CHAPTER 8 

In verses 10-11 he basically says, “Show your fruit.” There are many who do not want to judge others and sometimes that is the proper thing to do. It is, however, always appropriate to look at your own heart and life and see if you are bearing fruit. Are you proving your love for the Lord Jesus? If you are holding back in any area of obedience then your love is suspect. We should be able to see our own fruit better than anyone around us. We are after all the tree. What does your fruit show? Does it show a love for Christ or for someone else?

SHOW BLOOD 

During the American Civil War there were in both armies, units of soldiers designated as provost guard. These men served as the military police and were engaged in all kinds of duties from guarding military prison camps to protecting boats that were unloading supplies. One of the tasks sometimes given to the provost guard was to prevent an unauthorized retreat. As soldiers clashed in battle, it was common for some to turn and run. If this was allowed too blatantly, discipline would be lost and the battle would be easily lost. The guard would stand behind the lines and when men began to retreat toward the rear of the army, the provost guard would prevent them with the cry, “Show blood”. If they could show a wound, they would be allowed to pass through. If they could not, they would be forced to return to the front lines to fight. My call to you today is, “Show blood.” Jesus Christ shed His blood for you. Show your love to Him and to His church by giving and serving and suffering, if necessary, for Him.

REMINDER

If you are not in the Lord’s army, you cannot show blood. If you are not planted in Christ Jesus, you cannot show good fruit. Jesus died for you that you might become one of His. He shed His blood to redeem you from sin. He wants to make you rich, to give you something eternally to live for but you must come through Him. No man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. You must trust Him as your Savior for salvation.

The Joy of the Lord is our Motivation. It Produces an Attitude of Willingness. September 16, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Joy, Prayer, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth, Stewardship, Tithing.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF WILLINGNESS IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:3-4

 

Last week we looked at the part that joy plays in motivating our giving. This week we want to look at the attitude that joy produces in our giving. Joy produces willingness.

“GRACE” AND “GIFT” SYNONYMOUS IN THIS CHAPTER

Before we look at willingness, I want to explain something about the words “grace” and “gift.” The translation in our pew Bible (NKJV) takes the same word and when it refers to God’s work translates it “grace” and when it refers to the Macedonians’ work translates it “gift.” In other words they gave (i.e., graced) just as God had given (had graced) to them (compare verses 1 and 4).

What we do and what God does should not be all that different. He freely gives. We should freely give. As we saw last week, He is motivated by joy and we are to be motivated by joy also. The primary difference between God’s giving and our giving is our ability. God’s ability to give is limitless. Our ability is not. There is no one who has limitless resources. We cannot give as God gives in that sense. How then are we to give?

It is expected that we give (or “grace”) to others according to our ability (verse 3a). Now I am using the word “expected” here instead of “commanded” because Paul was careful not to use that type of phraseology but he does go to great lengths to set down some principles here by which we can live.

WHY TITHE? 

The greatest argument there is for tithing is proportional giving. You give according to what you have. People argue about whether you give according to your net or gross. They ask do you tithe on social security and retirement if you have already tithed on that money when you first earned it. It is interesting that the principle here is not complicated but simple. If you have, then give according to what you have. If I have a dollar and you have ten cents, naturally I should be giving more than you give because I have much more. Certainly, other factors play into the matter and we will speak of those but the principle is clear, give according to what you have. When I get more, I should give more. I don’t need to pray about it. I don’t need to think about it. I give, motivated by the joy of the Lord, out of what I have.

THE ATTITUDE MUST BE CORRECT. 

This is only acceptable if you have a willing mind (verse 12). Now what does Paul mean? Look back a couple of chapters to 2 Corinthians 6:2. Paul is talking in this verse about the day of salvation. “Behold, now is the accepted time.” Is salvation a good thing? Absolutely! It is a very good thing. If you want your giving to be a very good thing, it must come from a willing mind. Not from a mind that is seeking God’s blessing and grace but from a mind that is willing because it is motivated by the joy that comes from God’s grace. Paul has nothing against fairness. He talks about that in the next few verses but what makes tithing acceptable and well pleasing to God is not the percentage point but the willing mind. That is, of course, why many people do not tithe. Their mind is not willing. If you want me to do something that I am not willing to do, I can usually find some excuse not to do it. If I am willing then it is not a problem. I must have an attitude of willingness. Where do I get this attitude of willingness? It is motivated by joy in the grace/gift of God.

I’ll never forget one night as a kid with my dad in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We were listening to a big name preacher on the subject of the judgment seat of Christ. The preacher made the statement, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.” On the way home, my dad made a statement that I will never forget. Now my dad believed and believes in tithing. In fact, I remember him preaching from the Old Testament that you skipped giving the tithe, you should give another twenty percent. He believed in giving but he said to me on the way home, “Robert, that preacher got it backwards. It is not, “If God gets your pocketbook, He’ll have you.’ If God has you, He will have your pocketbook.” As I grow in the Lord, I understand better and better what my dad was saying. What I give is only acceptable if I have a willing mind, a mind motivated by the joy of the Lord.

psst!!! I WON’T USE THE WORD “SACRIFICE” BUT THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BELOW 🙂 

Willingness gives (graces) above its ability (verse 3b). This is what I mean by an abundance of willingness, an overflow of willingness. These were “gung-ho” givers. Just as God’s grace overflowed to them and the joy that comes from experiencing God’s grace overflowed to them so also did their willingness to give overflow. Obviously, you cannot actually give beyond your ability, above what is in your power. You cannot give what you do not have but these people were sitting on ready and the minute God gave to them they were ready to give it out. These were people who had nothing but their main concern was not what they had but God’s grace and joy in Christ and how they could show that grace through giving.

Paul then speaks to the Corinthians about their willingness in verses 10-11. He says a year ago you were ready, you were willing to give. Now it is time to put your money where your mouth was. It is after all to your advantage. If you give willingly, if you sit on ready to give, your giving will be well-accepted by God.

NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY 

Again, I want to make the point that this applies to more than just giving. In verses 16-17 of this chapter we find that Titus was of his own free will ready to assist the Corinthians, not because it was an important mission but because of his care and his concern for the Corinthians. He was zealous, he was eager, he was “gung ho” in his readiness to take the offering because he cared for the church in Corinth. An abundance of willingness will not only make you willing to give financially but will make you willing to pour your life into the lives of other people. Often, we are not ready to pour our lives into others, we do not have this attitude of willingness.

MAINTAINING WILLINGNESS 

We find this attitude of willingness difficult to maintain but maintain it we must. This is not a new problem. Remember when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray and he took some of his disciples with him. He went a little way from his disciples and when he returned he found them asleep and he said to the “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This tips us off to why we are sometimes not willing to give and to help. We are not watching and praying. We are not evaluating and examining the situation and we are not bringing to God our concerns about the situation. You want to be more willing to serve God? Let yourself be motivated by joy (as we talked about last week) and let yourselves be strengthened by watchfulness and prayer. You must purposefully pay attention to your life in watchfulness and you must be going to God in prayer for yourself and for others. I understand that prayer meeting has at least in my lifetime been the least popular of worship meetings that we have. I understand that there is not a lot of motivation for people to get together and pray but if you want a motivation, this is it. God will strengthen you and make you more willing to give and to serve and to sing and to resist sin if you pray.

 The abundance of willingness not only applies to giving and to caring for other believers and to resisting sin but it also applies to giving out the gospel. Paul was a ready Christian. He wrote in Romans 1:15, I am now ready to preach the gospel in Rome. He had often been hindered from going there but he was ready the moment God gave him the opportunity to rush in and give the gospel. There are a lot of hindrances to giving the gospel in the workplace and in the family and in the community but what God wants to see is a readiness to give out the gospel when the opportunity is there. That is where the abundance of willingness helps, in that we see the opportunities God gives us and we pounce on them and use them to give out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The abundance of willingness also applies to how we receive and react to the gospel. Even at the time of salvation, we see that some of these people were blessed with an abundance of willingness. In Acts 17, the people of Berea were presented by Paul and Silas and Timothy with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse 11 says that they received the word with a readiness of mind. When you read the Word of God, do you have a readiness to search the Scriptures and respond to them? Do you come to church planning to respond to the message? During the congregational singing, do you come planning to respond to the musical message or are you a spectator?

WILLING CHURCHES 

Willingness demands, implores, begs for the opportunity to give to (to grace) and to commune (to fellowship) with others by serving (deaconing) them (verse 4).

We call ourselves “Fellowship” Bible Church. That word is found twenty times in the New Testament and five of those times it talks about an offering and four of those times it refers to the churches in Macedonia. These people had determined that they were partners with the church in Jerusalem and they were going to help them, they were going to commune with them through a financial gift. We use the term fellowship to mean sharing a good time with each other but how many times do we think of the offering as a show of our fellowship with other believers in Christ. These people not only thought of the offering as a vital method of fellowship but begged to be able to participate with the other churches in it. Yes, fellowship has an emotional aspect and it has a spiritual aspect but it also has a very practical aspect. If we give as He gave to us we will fellowship with other believers through sharing with them what we have.

We were discussing on Wednesday night the meaning of fellowship and how to explain it to teenagers. The youth workers came up with the term friendship. I like that. There is another word that describes fellowship. It is “partnership”. Do you know why we have church membership? Because we are partners together. This partnership we have in Christ, in this local church is a willing partnership and should be motivated by the joy of the Lord.

WILLINGNESS PRODUCES SERVANTS. 

This willingness not only produces fellowship in sharing with other believers but it also produces servants. The word here is where we get our concept of deacons. How would you all like to be deacons? Serve through giving. I want you to notice two quick things about service. In this verse (8:4) we find we do not serve alone but in fellowship with and for other believers. Service in the body of Christ is not a single person serving but the whole body serving. You may be serving in just one particular way but like a body, every move you make is in conjunction with God working in the hearts and lives of others. Secondly, in 9:12-13 we see that service through sharing not only meets needs but results in true thanksgiving. Do you want to be thankful? Learn to share! Learn to give! Learn to serve! Learn to deacon as a church not individually but as the body of Christ.

 

CONCLUSION: Did you come to church this morning with a willing mind? Are you willing to respond to God’s message? Perhaps God spoke to you about one of these matters. You need to respond. Today. Not to me but to God. Will you purpose in your heart to respond in that area with which He is dealing. Perhaps you need to start giving financially more or out of a different motivation. Maybe you need to pour your lives into others in a more consistent or in a more sacrificial way. Do you need a willingness to witness of the gospel of Christ? Are you holding back fellowshiping with God’s people? Some of you need to find a church to which you are willing to commit yourself in partnership, a church that you are willing to join as a servant of your Head, Jesus Christ. There are other areas. These are the ones most obviously spoken to by the Bible but there are many areas. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? Remember, willingness comes from the joy that God’s grace gives us and is maintained by watchfulness and prayer. If you have been watching during this sermon, evaluating yourself, then what you need to do now is fall before God in prayer.

The Bereans were willing to respond to the gospel of God and because of that response they are in the presence of God right now. That is the only hope of salvation, responding in faith to the message of Jesus Christ. Are you willing to respond to the truth? If you have a willing mind, you will find that God will accept you through faith in Jesus Christ. He will save you today, if you are ready to respond. Respond to Christ Jesus in faith today!

 

Tithing Sermons (Well not exactly…) September 14, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Religion, Second Corinthians, Stewardship, Tithing.
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http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/47-57.htm (from MacArthur) Is tithing a New Testament command? That’s not the whole sermon but it is the most controversial part I imagine.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/20/171_Treasuring_Christ_Together_North_Campus_Expansion_Part_1/ (from John Piper)

This sermon by Ray Pritchard actually is on tithing. It is actually a part of a larger collection of sermons on giving.

First in a four week Stewardship series (Point: Our Motivation is Joy in Christ) September 9, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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THE ABUNDANCE OF JOY IN GIVING

II Corinthians 8:1-2 and 9:7

FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND MATERIAL

The church of Jerusalem was a problem church. From the very beginning they found it difficult to meet their own needs. They were burdened financially with local Jews who were kicked out of their families because they believed in Jesus and with Jews from throughout the Roman Empire who were in Jerusalem to learn from the disciples the truth of Christ. Before long, people began to sell property to care for the poor in the church. Then the out of town Jews began to complain that their widows were being ignored in the financial program of the church. Then came persecution and as often is the case, those with the most money were best able to escape to other areas. Then famine came. The church of Jerusalem could not care for itself and so Paul spent much time among the new believers in areas where he ministered raising funds for the Jerusalem church. At the end of 1 Corinthians he asked for money to be gathered and now he writes and encourages them to give as they had apparently promised.

Interestingly, Paul does not in this letter (2 Corinthians) appeal to the poverty of the Jerusalem church to motivate them to give but rather to the believer’s abundance of joy in Jesus Christ as the key motivating factor to give.

JOY COMES FROM THE GRACE OF GOD. 

It takes the grace of God to make a cheerful giver (8:1 and 9:7). Although the word cheerful and joyful are not the same, they are near synonyms the way Paul is using them in this chapter.

It is fun to watch people give with joy. At Christmas time we see people giving with joy. During our VBS we watched the children give with joy. The joy of competition – boys against the girls. The joy of participation – I get to do something with the others. In fact, these kids had so much joy that last week we got a letter from our Awana missionaries, Jeff and Melanie Davis, received $390 much needed dollars through the joy of those children and adults who participated in the Vacation Bible School offering.

Now the joy those kids experienced was real joy. They were cheerful givers. Their joy though was childish. It was the joy of competition and participation. I do not mean that as a criticism. They are children. They are supposed to be childish. Competition and participation are not sinful but can be very positive motivations. The joy though that these people had was the joy that comes by the grace of God.

If Paul had been sending out a mailing, he would not have sent out pictures of starving Jerusalem believers to motivate the Corinthians. He would have sent out pictures of Jesus on the cross, the very act of God’s  grace to mankind. Under that picture he would have written, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Show your joy by giving to your brother. The overflow of your joy is the love that you show to them.”

HE USES THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES AS AN EXAMPLE. 

The Macedonian churches (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) had reason to give grudgingly with sorrow or annoyance (8:2 with 9:7). They were broke. They had not always been poor. Lydia had been a business woman in Philippi. They had been homeowners like Jason in Thessalonica. They had been prominent people in the synagogues of Thessalonica and Berea but now they were financial nobodies. Business? Gone. Property? Gone. Connections at the synagogue? Gone. They were now impoverished. Yet they gave not out of duty, not out of sorrow, and not grudgingly but with joy. Joy in the grace of God.

Because of Paul’s authority, they could have felt pressured to give (Compare 9:7 with 11:5-9) but in actuality they did not (Philippians 4:10-17). In fact, it may be that Paul tried to spare them from the responsibility of giving but they would not let him (see verse 4).

In fact, they purposed in their heart. They made giving a permanent purpose (9:7), a priority in their lives. If they had a budget, they planned giving in that budget. If they did not have enough to even budget with, they planned to give in some way at any opportunity that God might bring into their lives. They begged for an opportunity to give. They gave not out of annoyance or out of pressure from man or even God but because they had joy in their lives and the reason they had joy in their lives was because of the grace of God (8:1). God made the Macedonian churches rich but not in material possessions but rather rich in joy!

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT MONEY.

Paul is applying this principle to a benevolence offering but this principle of joyful service applies to all manner of service.

John Piper: “Consider 1 Peter 5 when Peter tells the elders how to go about their ministry of shepherding the flock of God. Peter applies the same principle to the pastoral ministry that Paul applied to financial stewardship in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Verse 2:

Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, not under constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly.

Which may be summed up: God loves a cheerful pastor…”

(From “Love: The Labor of Christian Hedonism” by John Piper).

Now what I am about to say is tough but it seems to be consistent with what we see in both of these passages and specific ministries. God is pleased with a cheerful giver and he is not pleased with a grudging and coerced giver. God is pleased with a cheerful pastor and not with a coerced or covetous pastor. God is pleased when you rejoice to be with God’s people and he is not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice in taking the Lord’s Table and not pleased when you feel like you have to. God is pleased when you rejoice to pray with God’s people and He is not pleased when you feel like you have to do it. God is pleased when you rejoice to keep nursery or clean the church or stack chairs for Awana and is not pleased when you feel like you have to. Not rejoicing does not excuse you from service. Service (or giving) rather is our excuse to show our joy which God has given to us in abundance by His grace!

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE THE JOY FROM THE LORD?

Often, it takes a great test of affliction to reveal a cheerful giver (8:2, 9).

Three components of their test (8:1-2):

  1. Their test was deep or extreme poverty. This testing is of the type that metals are put through to prove their genuineness and purity. The oven is heated to the highest degree possible. They were on the bottom of the economic totem pole.

  2. God’s grace and their joy were tested. God’s grace had given them an abundant joy. This joy was of highest and purest quality. It’s motivation came from God.

  3. The proof of their joy was their liberality. Liberality is not indicated solely by the amount on the check but by the eagerness of the giver to give.

THE JOY OF CHRIST WAS TESTED.

Christ is the ultimate example of poverty revealing a cheerful giver (8:9). He was rich but became poor, became a beggar. The suffering of Christ included more than just the cross, it included His whole life. His poverty was necessary for our salvation and necessary for the resulting joy, the resulting liberality, and the resulting show of God’s love from our hearts.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us why Jesus endured this suffering. It says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” He found it a joy to be crucified because He knew that a day was coming when He would be on the right hand of His Heavenly Father with those who He redeemed sitting with Him as joint heirs of God’s kingdom.

WE CAN MEASURE OUR GENUINENSS… 

…not by being afflicted by poverty but by comparing our motives with that of the Macedonians and of Christ (8:8). We may not be in the same situation but we can evaluate ourselves by their lives. Ask yourself, “Why do I give? Why do I give the amount I give? Why do I give where I give? Does God give me my motivation or do I have to come up with it on my own?”

This goes much deeper than whether tithing is an Old or New Testament command. This cuts right to the heart. An honest giver is a joyful giver and because his joy is so full, he is also a loving giver. God may or may not test your motives with deep poverty and great affliction but you can prove your joy and your love and God’s grace in your life by giving with the attitude that the Macedonians had and that Christ Himself had.

We can also measure our genuineness not by being afflicted by poverty but by giving cheerfully when the opportunity comes. “A collection is a test of one’s love for Christ, not the only test, but a real one.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures) I would also say that a collection is a test of one’s joy in Christ.

GIVING AND SERVING WITHOUT JOY IS UNPROFITABLE. 

Conclusion: You might ask, what if I give but it is not based on joy in Christ? What if I pastor and it is by constraint? What if I do what I do because of guilt, because I feel like I have to? According to Hebrews 13:17b, “Let them [in this situation pastors] do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” That word means “hurtful, harmful”. Our attitudes and our motivations do matter. Again, the answer is not to quit giving, to quit pastoring, to quit serving but to learn to rejoice in Jesus Christ.

Some of you today did not realize what Christ did for you when He became man. He became poor so that you might be rich. He rejoiced in the cross because He saw an opportunity to give you joy in God that is utterly impossible for man apart from God to have. You can have that joy and you can have it abundantly right now through Jesus Christ.

 

Links to the Joy of Giving in 2 Corinthians 8:2 September 7, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Links, Religion, Second Corinthians, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Emotions, Stewardship.
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Beginning this weekend a four part sermon series on giving from 2 Corinthians 8. 

Look in this sermon from John Piper for the promise of God to the giver. You might be surprised what it is.

Not just joy but other characteristics of giving in verses 1 and 2 in this sermon from John MacArthur.

Practical sermon from Ray Stedman that covers the subject of joyful giving very well.